Tracking GIS Across the Blogosphere

Trying to find GIS information on the Internet can be like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack. Well lucky for us we have a couple tools that enable us to see what other users are saying about topics we care about. I use my RSS aggregator to read the blogs that I feel keep me up to date the most, but what about the thousands that mention GIS?

Enter Technorati, PubSub and Feedster. These three tools allow me to use keywords or “tags” to find blog postings that match terms that I want to follow. What is ever better about them is you can subscribe to them with your RSS aggregator. I will use the keyword/tag “ESRI” to show you how each of them finds and displays blog entries.

PubSub is a little different than those two as you really need to create the keywords yourself, but I think I get better results with PubSub than Technorati or Feedster.

I’ve got PubSub feeds for ESRI, ArcGIS, PostGIS, Oracle, MapServer, Ka Map, Cartography and Geospatial. I don’t have one for GIS because you get many results for GIs (think Iraq). Any time almost anyone posts about the above terms on their blog, I get to read the post. I know many users know about these services, but if you don’t you should really check them out.

The “New” Spatially Adjusted

I’ve moved from Blogger to TypePad to get better control over the site. You’ll also notice that the web address is now http://www.spatiallyadjusted.com rather than the more complex old address. Make sure you are using the following RSS feed rather than any old ones to make sure you area always up to date.

http://feeds.feedburner.com/SpatiallyAdjusted

Needed Vacation

My first vacation in over two years (pretty sad when I have to count the 2003 ESRI User Conference weekend as a vacation) is about to happen. Building a GIS practice from scratch is a lot of work, but I’m glad I had an opportunity to do it, again.

Anyway I’m going to a place that has no phone lines so I won’t be able to check my email at all, what a concept! No GIS for 5 whole days.

OK, maybe not. I’ll have my new bluetooth GPS with my Dell Axim v50. I’m a geographer, what can I say?

Improving ESRI Developer Network

Rob Elkins asked me in my previous post about EDN for any suggestion I might have.

  • ISO downloads – I’ve come to rely on this for MSDN. Many time while traveling I might need something and I always know I’ll have access to the complete MSDN catalog. I could see where I might want to install another server product on my laptop or reinstall one that screwed up my system. While I love the EDN binder, I can’t imagine carrying it around with me. Also updates could be gotten much quicker than waiting for UPS.
  • ArcGIS Desktop – I can see why ESRI didn’t include it with the EDN, but I think to get the full functionality out of ArcGIS Server or ArcGIS Engine, you need ArcInfo/ArcEditor/ArcView. My company has ArcInfo and ArcView, but no ArcEditor. Many of our clients do have Editor and I’d rather have an ArcEditor license to test my applications on. I’m not really sure how this could be implemented, but I do think ArcGIS developers need access to ArcGIS Desktop.
  • ArcPad and ArcPad Application Builder – EDN seems to focus on ESRI’s server products (well ArcGIS Engine aside), but why not mobile GIS?
  • MapObjects and MapObjects Java – Yea, it isn’t sexy, but MO is and still will be very popular. Adding this to the EDN can only help existing programmers get more out of the products by sharing code and samples via EDN.
  • Python – What about scripting? Python is used quite extensively with ArcGIS and I can only assume will increase in the future. The EDN web should focus much upon this to get people caught up who are stuck on VBA and Avenue/AML.
  • EDN Magazine – I’d love to see more detailed articles than those that get published in the current ESRI publications.
  • Additional EDN website enhancements – I’m sure these will come, but more RSS feeds (so I know when to download those new ISO CDs), webcasts, columns or blogs by EDN staff and “power programmers”. The start is good, but don’t let it slide over the summer. With the User Conference around the bend, the traffic at EDN will grow. New content will keep them there and improve the community for all of us. Heck, who wouldn’t like to see http://blogs.edn.esri.com or something similar. ESRI has very bright people, let them tell us what they know about the development tools and some great new ideas they have come up or have seen.
  • EDN User Conference – Why not? Could be just held at Redlands as long as you don’t continue to have earthquakes right under the campus. This would be more technical that the Business Partner Conference.

EDN is still early in its life and I’m sure ESRI has thought long and hard about most of my suggestions before I even knew about EDN. Personally I love it so far as we have finally gotten into ArcGIS Engine development and we’ve only had it for a little over a week.

Working with Ka Map

One of more intriguing reasons to use UMN MapServer is Ka Map. I’m quite impressed with how it is able to pan and zoom without having to load the whole page. We’ve tried to do as much as we can on the client side of ArcIMS and with Ka Map we can continue that trend.

Since ESRI released ArcIMS 3 a couple years ago, there haven’t been any big changes to the default templates. I’d love to see ESRI offer some new ones on their site for those who can’t hire someone to customize ArcIMS for them or have the to do it themselves. Maybe with the advent of ESRI Developer Network and the Code Exchange we’ll see some more, but I doubt it.

Working with Ka Map

One of more intriguing reasons to use UMN MapServer is Ka Map. I’m quite impressed with how it is able to pan and zoom without having to load the whole page. We’ve tried to do as much as we can on the client side of ArcIMS and with Ka Map we can continue that trend.

Since ESRI released ArcIMS 3 a couple years ago, there haven’t been any big changes to the default templates. I’d love to see ESRI offer some new ones on their site for those who can’t hire someone to customize ArcIMS for them or have the to do it themselves. Maybe with the advent of ESRI Developer Network and the Code Exchange we’ll see some more, but I doubt it.

Why Blogging about GIS works

I posted a blog entry moving to a .NET development environment last month and questioned what the possible licensing issues were with ArcGIS Engine. I had searched ESRI’s site to see if there was a definitive answer, but couldn’t really find much. Lucky for me ESRI Product Manager Rob Elkins saw what I wrote and offered to answer my questions. I’ve taken him up on it and he cleared up every question I had, thanks Rob!

Weblogs are great tools for everyone. We can talk about issues that concern us in an open forum and get reaction from other bloggers and just people in general. I decided to start blogging about GIS again because our company was moving our GIS work in two new directions, from COM to .NET and into open source server side GIS. In a closed development environment I wouldn’t have had the great suggestions people have given me about connection to PostGIS and I sure wouldn’t have learned as much as I have about ArcGIS Engine.

ESRI has a couple of bloggers that are in my blogroll, but I sure wish there were more. I’d love to see every ESRI Product Manager have a weblog to interact with users. Forums are nice, but I don’t think you get the kind of feedback that weblogs can give you. Microsoft has jumped on the weblog bandwagon and I think this gives employees better feedback than they would get with surveys such as the annual ESRI User Conference questionnaire.

A quick look at the ESRI Developer Network (EDN)

I’m quite impressed with ESRI and their EDN. For a first time effort, they really did a great job. I haven’t seen any pictures of what it looks like so I thought I’d upload a couple of our copy. I apologize for the quality of the pictures as the only camera we had left in the office today was quite old.

EDN Cover

The front cover of the EDN

EDN Getting  Started

Getting started with EDN

EDN GIS Servers

The GIS Servers section

EDN CDs

Information about GIS Servers

EDN Tabs

A close look at some of the tabs of the EDN

Oracle Developer Tools for Visual Studio .NET Released

How cool is this? Oracle has released tools for Visual Studio .NET 2003 to provide integrated support for creating .NET applications that access Oracle databases. Rather than use the weird, non-standard Oracle Java based tools or command line, you can now use the Oracle explorer to browse and alster the schema right from inside Visual Studio. We use Oracle for most of our database applications and better .NET IDE integration was always on our wish list.

  • Oracle Explorer – Browse and alter the Oracle schema via a tree control
  • Designers and Wizards – e.g. Table Designer – makes database tasks easy
  • Automatic Code Generation – Drag and drop to create working code
  • PL/SQL Editor – Edit stored procedures and functions in an integrated Visual Studio .NET environment
  • Stored Procedure Testing – Run stored procedures and functions
  • Oracle Data Window – View and edit your Oracle data
  • SQL Query Window – Execute any ad-hoc SQL statement or script
  • Integrated Help System – SQL, PL/SQL and Error Reference Manuals

Oracle Developer Tools for Visual Studio .NET